British Soft Drinks Association

Four years into Club Soda and we still fumble over our words. We are a mindful drinking movement and we talk about low and no alcohol drinks. In our head, this includes traditional soft drinks like lemonades and colas. But we tend to add the phrase “designed for adults”.

As a consumer, it may not matter too much, as long as you can find what you want, but for the drinks brands that are also members of Club Soda, what they are called or which drink category they sit in can affect how they are regulated and even the taxes applied to their products. Is it time for a new drink classification? How can we boost this new wave of drinks without tying them up in restrictive rules that should not apply to them? 

Labelling

For example, if you are in the soft drink category, then sugar tax may be top of your mind (despite the fact that for a drink aimed at adults to be drunk on a night out, sugar is the healthier option when compared to alcohol). If a drink is a low strength version of an alcoholic product, then what goes on the label in terms of alcohol strength is an issue, and a shopper will also be asked for age ID when buying them.

Pubs and bars don’t always know where and who to sell these drinks to, so this can affect how consumers navigate and find new drinks. There are some marketing advantages to making sure you are firmly in the “designed for adults” space. But then what does a producer call their drink? “Alcohol-free” or “low alcohol”? Both suggest that something is missing. A soft drink is so named because it is not a “hard drink”. The public are not experts on ABV, so even words like “zero” or “low proof” may not mean very much. 

So here we are, at the start of an emerging market without a name or a suitable category label, and some nonsensical rules about labelling. It seems that everyone is working it out as we go along. Drinks brands need to decide what they want, and consumers need to articulate what they need. 

How the soft drinks sector is adapting

In Club Soda’s journey through the regulatory space, we have been really lucky to have had great support and advice from many existing players in the sector, from the British Beer and Pub Association to the British Soft Drinks Association (BSDA). Yes, we too tried to get our heads around the implications of the new sugar tax.

The British Soft Drinks Association is so excited about the new wave of alcohol-free drinks, that it took the opportunity to show off the best of the new spirits and sodas by funding the cocktail masterclasses with La Maison Wellness at the Club Soda Mindful Drinking Festival in July, where we mixed the best of the festival into some amazing concoctions. (Look out for these recipes on our blog next Monday).

So we want to let you know how every drink manufacturer can benefit from being a member of the BSDA – whatever your company size, and whether or not you feel you fit into the “soft drink” category.

Expert technical advice and free seminars and workshops 

The British Soft Drinks Association has been representing soft drinks for over thirty years – they know their stuff! What was interesting for us to know is that they too have seen the growth in the sector – the sheer number of new companies and products available is unprecedented. The adult soft drinks market is growing every year. Soft drink sales are up by over 15% in the last five years, and the demand from mindful drinkers and the new drinks aimed at adults are a big part of this growth. 

This change in consumer behaviour has also been reflected in the work that BSDA does. Many of the drinks companies that are members of Club Soda are the smaller, cutting edge brands and these are the companies which BSDA can help. Therefore the BSDA is now offering additional benefits to support and encourage these companies to grow in a rewarding but challenging business environment. 

BSDA provide the advice that complements the work Club Soda does, helping with the technical and regulatory aspects of the industry. They also offer free seminars and workshops, discounted training courses and free access to Assured Advice from Trading Standards all at newly reduced subscription fees for start-ups and SMEs.

So alongside the Club Soda drinks membership scheme, we suggest you also join the BSDA – details can be found here. Alternatively, if you have any questions please call Jackie Wall on 020 7405 0300 or email jwall@britishsoftdrinks.com.

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